EPA To Strengthen Rule To Replace Lead Pipes In US Within 10 Years

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a proposal to strengthen its Lead and Copper Rule that would require water systems across the country to replace lead pipe service lines within 10 years.

EPA is also proposing additional improvements to protect public health, such as lowering the lead action level and improving sampling protocols utilized by water systems.

These proposals are part of the Biden administration’s vision for a lead-free future, by removing every lead service line in the U.S. to protect children and vulnerable populations from the negative impacts of lead in drinking water, particularly those living in disadvantaged communities.

Key provisions in the proposal include achieving 100 percent Lead Pipe Replacement within 10 years, locating legacy lead pipes, improving tap sampling, lowering the Lead Action Level, and strengthening protections to reduce exposure.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $50 billion to support upgrades to the nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. This includes $15 billion dedicated to lead service line replacement and $11.7 billion of general Drinking Water State Revolving Funds that can also be used for lead service line replacement.

In November, EPA announced a $336 million loan to the City of Chicago for lead pipe replacement through the WIFIA program. This financing will help Chicago, which has one of the highest concentrations of lead pipes in the nation, to replace up to 30,000 lead service lines while creating an estimated 2,700 jobs.

More than 9.2 million American households connect to water through lead pipes and lead service lines. Due to decades of inequitable infrastructure development and underinvestment, lead exposure disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color. There is no safe level of exposure to lead, particularly for children, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

In children, it can severely harm mental and physical development—slowing down learning and damaging the brain. In adults, lead can cause increased blood pressure, heart disease, decreased kidney function, and cancer.

Lead can enter drinking water when plumbing materials that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures.

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